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Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 12:01 am
by uglyguitar
The question is... does it really matter? Interesting article anyway. I always thought his voice was a little high, but it sounds good to me either way!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2010/may/27/robert-johnson-blues

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 12:48 am
by ricochet
It's been discussed a lot on here, and on most other blues boards. I believe the theory, but I'm not sure slowing it to G pitch is quite right for all of his songs.

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 11:44 pm
by uglyguitar
ah... I'm late to the party as usual! I never considered RJ to be the best ever anyway, I like Skip James.

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 2:39 am
by Neal
I don't think there is a "best" UG, just varying degrees of good, and all subjective anyway.

I'm not sure I buy the theory. Maybe one day we'll know.

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:40 am
by farmaz
to be honest i allways throught his stuff sounded fine & the 2nd version of come in my kitchen which is atlo slower than the first part has allways been my favourite.

i aint that fussed if it is 20% faster the guy was & still is the master of rural mississippi blues, he still rates #1 for slide along side fred mcdowell IMO.

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 6:53 pm
by stumblin
I can't bring myself to buy into the wrong speed theory.
Watch John Hammond Jr.'s documentary The Search for Robert Johnson. Hammond plays one of Robert's records, Love in Vain, to Willie Mae Powell, for whom it was written. She had never heard it before, she recognises his voice instantly and a very moving scene is recorded for posterity. Had the recording been at the wrong speed, she would probably not have been able to recognise his voice - not instantly and with such ease, anyway.
Apart from this, how come Johnny Shines and others who knew Robert never gave any indication that the recordings are too fast? Honeyboy is still with us, and he's never said so either.
If you were to re-brand Corn Flakes with Robert Johnson's name on the box, millions of blues fans would buy them, even if they'd always preferred Weetabix.

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:37 pm
by uglyguitar
I actually just saw that documentary for the first time, and I saw the scene you mention. I don't think after so long anyone could have remembered how he sounded, so I'm not so sure that it's proof one way or the other. I guess we'll just have to enjoy it no matter what speed it is LOL!

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:57 pm
by NEONMOONY
I don't see where it's a big deal, even if it is slightly fast. Even today, bands will perform a song in more than one key and more than one tempo on different occasions.

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 12:25 am
by ricochet
It's only as big a deal as you want to make it. But getting the key wrong can make it harder to play.

Changing recording speeds has been done lots. In more recent times, Jimmy Page says he recorded Led Zep's "When The Levee Breaks" in Open G but it was slowed down to F in production to "fatten up the tone." It's been suggested that RJ's recordings were run slow to pep up the tempo.

Re: Robert Johnson at the wrong speed?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:44 pm
by dcblues
Here's Elijah Wald's take on this theory:

http://www.elijahwald.com/johnsonspeed.html